A Jewish detective breaks up a Nazi spy ring.
|The following is a selection from my screenplay “Maccabee,” a detective story about familial betrayal and industrial sabotage set on the brink of World War II. When wealthy young heiress Abigail Dexter and her new bridegroom disappear on their honeymoon, private investigator Maccabee is called in to find them, dead or alive. Strangely, the heiress's mother is not as concerned about finding her missing daughter as she should be.
EXT. DEXTER ESTATE – DAY
Maccabee’s Cord glides up a flowered driveway and stops by a bubbling fountain with a statue of Venus as water bearer. The half-timbered Tudor mansion is dappled with pink stucco.
INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY
Large and luxurious, furnished in French provincial antiques, with a display of old master paintings and expensive objets d’art.
Maccabee studies the coins in a glass case as SAMANTHA DEXTER, 55, a vain shallow-minded beauty wearing a silk kimono, is ushered into the room by a BUTLER, who exits shutting a pair of gilded doors behind him.
MRS. DEXTER: Those coins were collected by my husband from auction houses all over the world. Many of them are extremely ancient.
MACCABEE (pointing): Is that one of the Caesars?
MRS. DEXTER: Yes, Mr. Dexter had a growing interest in the Romans just before he died, as you can see –
She waves across the room at a collection of statuary to rival the Elgin marbles, then directs Maccabee to a leather couch.
MRS. DEXTER: But I’m being rude. Please, let’s sit and speak more comfortably.
Seated by Mac on the couch, Mrs. Dexter gesticulates angrily at him.
MRS. DEXTER: My disagreement with my daughter could not possibly have had anything to do with her disappearance. I have always doted upon her the way a mother should. Abigail simply could not accept the idea that I remain attractive to younger men in spite of my age!
MACCABEE: Younger men? Is there someone else in your life other than Jim Miller, the new factory manager?
MRS. DEXTER: No, of course not. I suppose that you don’t know my daughter became jealous over her bridegroom’s affection for me?
MACCABEE: Anything in it?
MRS. DEXTER: Not really. Henry wanted to kiss me and I didn’t see any harm, except for the way he did it. I guess he was a little too affectionate, that was all.
MACCABEE: Abigail also disapproved of your relations with Jim Miller. You didn’t mourn very long for your husband before finding a new lover.
MRS. DEXTER: I can’t see how this will help you find my daughter.
MACCABEE: It may.
She nervously leans over a coffee table, takes a cigarette from an ivory holder and ignites it with a silver lighter, exhaling a cloud of smoke up at a crystal chandelier.
MRS. DEXTER: I was in a terrible state when Mr. Dexter died. My health deteriorated rapidly following the funeral. When Jim came into my life, he was like a godsend, otherwise neither I nor the business might have survived.
MACCABEE: Didn’t the factory remain open after your husband’s death?
MRS. DEXTER: Yes, but the running of it could not be entrusted to the managers Mr. Dexter had hired. None of them was qualified to take complete charge of an aircraft plant.
MACCABEE: And your friend Jim Miller was?
MRS. DEXTER: Yes, he’s very competent and he brought along his own staff of private security men.
MACCABEE: I’ve had a run-in with a couple of those bruisers already. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.
MRS. DEXTER: I needed someone strong enough to deal with the striking plant workers. My concern was that Abigail might too easily give in to all of their demands without her father to guide her.
MACCABEE: Didn’t your husband promise the workers everything they’re asking for?
MRS. DEXTER: No. . . . Well, yes, but he surely had no idea how selfish they would be or he would not have promised them so generously. Do you think that any of the strikers could be responsible in the disappearances of Abigail and Henry? A kidnapping?
MACCABEE: Have you received any ransom demand?
MRS. DEXTER: No.
MACCABEE: Why would the factory men want to harm your daughter if she was on their side in a labor dispute?
MRS. DEXTER: Who knows what goes on inside desperate minds?
The doors across the room open and then close behind JIM MILLER, 45, an athletic, shady looking businessman, dapperly dressed in a three-piece suit with a gold watch fob and a diamond stick-pin.
MILLER: Excellently put, my darling!
Mac stands to be introduced, and Miller quickly crosses the room, impolitely taking Mac’s seat by Mrs. Dexter and forcing the detective to sit on a small chair opposite.
MILLER (to Mac): Jim Miller! I suppose by now you’ve heard all about me. Hope it won’t be too tedious if I ask you a few questions of my own?
MACCABEE: Please go ahead.
MILLER (ironically): Maccabee? Is that a Hebrew name?
MACCABEE (unhappily): Yes.
MILLER (hostile): I don’t believe I’ve ever met a Jewish detective before. Do you always take the side of labor in their trifling little disputes with management?
MACCABEE: No, in this case I’m looking for a pair of missing persons. (to Mrs. Dexter) I’d like to talk more about Henry Duparis.
Miller blushes angrily and looks away, then recovers when he sees Mrs. Dexter watching him puzzled.
MILLER (to Mrs. Dexter): Sorry, my dearest, I received a call at the bank from one of our security people informing me that a shamus had visited the factory. I certainly was misled about the purpose of Maccabee’s visit! (to Mac) I suppose it was David Jenkins, my quarrelsome foreman, who hired you to find Abigail and Henry?
MILLER: Then he must have admitted to you that he was horribly negligent in abandoning them at the dude ranch while they were honeymooning. He should have stayed to chaperone them.
MACCABEE: Mr. Jenkins feels very badly about it and he’s anxious to clear his name.
The Butler enters the room, timidly whispers in Miller’s ear and Miller stands.
MILLER: I’ll be back in a moment.
EXT. DEXTER ESTATE – DAY
Miller comes out the door and is extremely annoyed to find his henchman Ron Henderson and his sedan parked behind Mac’s Cord. Henderson is trying to jimmy open Mac’s glove compartment.
MILLER: Stop, fool! Want him to catch you?
Henderson pockets the jimmy, then pulls out a stiletto and snaps it open, revealing a ten-inch long razor sharp blade.
HENDERSON: Lemme get rid of the troublemaker and we’ll have no more worries.
MILLER: Not here and not now! Put that away. And get your sedan out of here, if anything happens, I don’t want it to be witnessed by our household staff.
He gets in the sedan and rapidly backs down the driveway.
INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY
Miller quietly rejoins Mrs. Dexter on the couch, while Mac continues his questioning.
MACCABEE: Is your daughter’s husband Henry in any way unreliable or irresponsible?
MILLER: Don’t answer, dear.
MACCABEE: Mrs. Dexter?
MRS. DEXTER: Oh no, Henry is a perfect match for my daughter. His family are socially very prominent and he has a large trust fund of his own.
MACCABEE: That doesn’t really answer my question. Have you ever seen him in a fit of temper or rage? Has he ever struck or threatened your daughter?
MILLER: I hate the way you think, but I have to admit this is getting interesting. What are you hinting at?
MRS. DEXTER (anxiously): Jim, please, let’s just get this over with. (to Mac) Other than showing a little too much interest in me, shall we say, physically or, uh, sexually, Henry has usually been very considerate of Abigail’s feelings. He was gently raised and I don’t believe that he would ever strike a woman. Actually, he’s quite a lovely boy.
MACCABEE: I see. Now, may I change the subject? Under what circumstances did your husband’s death occur?
Mrs. Dexter leans over and lights another cigarette.
MRS. DEXTER: He was returning home from the plant when he had a heart attack in his car on the freeway.
MACCABEE: Anything peculiar about the way he died?
MILLER: You are suspicious way past the point of paranoia. I suppose you think he was murdered. Mr. Dexter died naturally of old age.
MRS. DEXTER: Let me answer. (to Mac) My husband was in normal health for the age of 70, although possibly too active for his age. It may have contributed to his death. He rode on horseback rather frequently.
MACCABEE: At the ranch in Arizona where the kids took their honeymoon?
MRS. DEXTER: No, at the Avalon hunt club. He was a minor celebrity among the international equestrian set. Do you know that he once hunted with the heir to the British throne?
MILLER (disgusted, to Mac): How long is this interrogation going to last? I feel you’re pursuing the investigation aimlessly.
MACCABEE: Anything Mrs. Dexter tells me may prove useful in finding her daughter. I haven’t much to go on. Would you indulge my curiosity a bit further yourself?
MILLER: Fire away, my life is an open book.
MACCABEE: I understand that you plan to convert the Dexter factory to the manufacture of light pleasure aircraft.
MILLER: Correct. My research in the marketplace indicates that converting our manufacture to light airplanes will more than double Dexter Corporation’s sales performance and profitability over a period of as short as five years.
MACCABEE: That would be an extraordinary achievement. But the line of heavy plane you currently manufacture would be far more useful to the military in time of war. Aren’t you concerned that we may have to fight a war against the Nazis in the near future?
MILLER: Pure nonsense from the press! We Americans have no quarrel with Mr. Hitler and we should leave the Europeans to solve their own problems themselves. Our concern is to survive the depression by improving the profitability of big business.
MACCABEE: May I ask your qualifications for the role of manager of an aircraft factory?
MILLER: I should be delighted to discuss my background further, but financial duties must call me away. Please call me when you return from Arizona, and then we can set up an interview.
MACCABEE: Can’t you answer a few more questions about Abigail and Henry?
MILLER: If we meet again.
Miller rises and impatiently indicates the door. Mac reluctantly stands and shakes hands.
MACCABEE: Very well. I don’t want to lose any more time. (to Mrs. Dexter) I’ll get back in touch with you the instant I get a lead on your daughter, Ma’am.
EXT. DEXTER ESTATE – DAY
Getting in the Cord, Mac spots the jimmy marks around the glove compartment. He sighs uneasily, unlocks it and checks to see that his car papers and a snub nosed revolver are still inside.
EXT. OAK DRIVE – DAY
A steep tree-lined street bordered by the sculpted hedges and ivied walls of Roman villas and Spanish Colonial haciendas. As Mac’s Cord glides downhill, he takes in the luxuriant scenery.
EXT. SPRUCE DRIVE – DAY
Henderson’s dark colored sedan is hidden at a scenic turnout that looks down at a sharp turn on Oak Drive below. Henderson is in the kneeling marksman’s position, with his pistol aimed down at the Cord as it enters the turn. He FIRES four times.
EXT. OAK DRIVE – DAY
Mac floors the accelerator. The Cord’s tires SQUEAL through the turn as it narrowly misses an oncoming Packard. Two SHOTS strike the car door and the passenger seat.
EXT. SUNSET BOULEVARD – DAY
Mac SKIDS around a corner and speeds through traffic, past PATROLMAN NICK DAIN, 28, a wry motorcycle cop. Dain kick starts his bike, runs the SIREN and finally catches up to the Cord at curbside three blocks away. He checks his gunbelt, then saunters over to Mac.
NICK: What’s this, a race car? I could write you a fifty dollar ticket, buster!
MACCABEE: You’re not gonna want to after I explain.
NICK: Better make it good. If I’m not entertained, you get the ticket.
Mac points at the bullethole in the driver-side door.
MACCABEE: See that?
Nick leans over and inspects the puncture hole.
NICK (surprised): .38 caliber. Where’d it happen?
MACCABEE: The turn on Oak Drive just now.
NICK: I better call this in.
MACCABEE: Too late, there’s no chance you’ll catch up to the shooter.
NICK: You sound like you know what you’re talking about. Why would anyone wanna take a shot at a harmless looking guy like you?
A pair of pretty girls stroll by, checking out Mac and his car. He pulls a card out of his shirt pocket and hands it to the cop.
MACCABEE: My line of business.
NICK: Private eye? Say, I’ve heard good things about you. (admiringly) Sure, you broke the Diablo case down in Santa Monica, caught the thugs who murdered that senator’s son. What’s the rap here, Mac?
MACCABEE: Possible abduction, the kids from the Dexter estate.
NICK: Okay, so we can forget the ticket, but I may have to have the lab boys look over your car, run tests on the bullet.
MACCABEE: Do me a favor, pal, let’s work on this case together.
Mac pulls out a penknife, digs the bullet out of the passenger seat and hands it to Nick.
MACCABEE: Run a ballistics test on this slug, the one in the door will be squashed flat.
Nick drops the bullet in a leather breast pocket.
NICK: Don’t tell me there are no suspects.
MACCABEE: At least a dozen – the security men over at the Dexter plant – especially a big ugly faced brute about six feet tall, 250 pounds, drives a dark colored sedan, plate number 4829 BK.
NICK (grinning): I’ll pick him up. If the slug matches the brute’s pistol, I charge him and give him the third degree about the kidnappings. If he spills, you’ll break the case and I make detective!
MACCABEE: Careful, son, there may be a lot more here than meets the eye.
NICK (looks at the business card): What’s a good time to call?
MACCABEE: For the next few days I’ll be at the dude ranch where the kids were snatched.
Nick scrawls a number on a slip of paper and hands it to Mac.
NICK: Call me at the stationhouse tomorrow in the afternoon. Ask for Patrolman Nick Dain. I should have something for you by then.
Mac shakes hands gratefully and turns the ignition.
MACCABEE: Will do. Wish me luck, Nick, the drive to Arizona is over 300 miles in the dead of night.
NICK: Try to stay in one piece.
Nick holds up his hand, slowing traffic while the Cord quickly pulls away from the curb.
* * * *
Maccabee is pretty obviously on the right track, but bringing in the culprits may prove just a wee bit dangerous, especially if Nazi agents are involved.
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